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Novel about local legend Parkhurst earns award

Modified: Tuesday, Dec 11th, 2012

Los Angeles author Karen Kondazian talks about her book last year. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Los Angeles author and actor Karen Kondazian, who penned "The Whip," a historical fiction novel about famed Watsonville stagecoach whip Charley Parkhurst, recently won the 2012 USA Book News Award in the Best Historical Fiction category.

“The Whip” (Hansen Publishing Company) was inspired by the true story of Charlotte Charley Darkey Parkhurst (1812-1879), who lived most of her life as a man in California. Her gravesite is on Freedom Boulevard at the Pioneer Cemetery.

The book was also chosen as a runner-up in the Western Fiction category in the USA Book News Award, which is in its 10th year.

“It’s great,” Kondazian said Tuesday. “This just blows me away. I am really honored. You know, writing that book — it’s like I didn’t write the book, it’s more like she (Parkhurst) did; she inspired me. I get emails and letters, particularly from women, who just want to thank me for inspiring them.”

Parkhurst became a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her, Kondazian said.

It wasn't until Parkhurst died of cancer in 1879 in Watsonville that it was discovered he was a woman who had maintained a false identity as a man.

In December 2011, Kondazian visited Watsonville to officially release her new novel. At a book signing at the Watsonville Public Library, she said she chose Watsonville to release her book because “it was key to Parkhurst’s life and death.”

“The novel took me six years and 27 drafts to complete,” Kondazian said. “I thought I’d never be able to let go of it. Charley Parkhurst was a survivor. This is not just a story about Charley; it’s a story about forgiveness and survival. Can you get up after a great loss and put your arms around life?”

Kondazian completed her schooling at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, the University of Vienna and San Francisco State University, where she received her B.A., after which she began her acting career in New York.

In 1979, Kondazian won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in “The Rose Tattoo.”

She is also the author of the best-selling book, "The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors."

Kondazian said she has received email letters, mostly from women, around the country thanking her for her “inspiring book.”

“The book has been doing really well. and now it’s taking off as an e-book,” Kondazian said. “It sold so many copies as a book that we were able to get up onto audio books. The book has become a phenomenon; they can’t keep the book on the shelves.”

Kondazian said she is currently working on a new book, “Looking for Jack Kerouac,” a fictional memoir.

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